The National Curriculum Framework (NCF) 2022 for the basic stages of education has recommended that the mother tongue be the primary medium of instruction in both public and private schools for children up to the age of eight. Over the years, while the promotion of the mother tongue as a medium of instruction in schools, especially at primary level, has been a constant feature of successive educational policies and curriculum frameworks, the recommendations on English have been different.
The latest push for mother tongue comes after Prime Minister Narendra Modi advocated its introduction at the early stages of education on many occasions.
Q. What has the new NCF recommended?
A. Stating that research evidence confirms the importance of teaching children in their mother tongue in the formative years and beyond, the NCF 2022 has recommended that the mother tongue be the primary medium of instruction in the basic stage for children up to the age of eight. “Because children learn concepts faster and more deeply in their mother tongue, the primary medium of instruction would optimally be the child’s mother tongue/home language/familiar language at the foundation stage,” he says. English, he noted, may be one of the second languages taught at this level.
Q. Will there be immediate changes at the classroom level?
A. Nationally, in schools affiliated to CBSE or ICSE, English is the main medium of instruction in primary classes. This has been so despite efforts to get education boards to adopt the mother tongue or dominant regional languages, at least for the primary grades. So far, none of these boards have indicated any possible revision of the current provisions. Most state boards, on the other hand, have regional languages as their main modes of instruction. Of course, all state governments also run schools where English is the medium of instruction. In fact, the current governments of Andhra Pradesh and Telangana have taken policy decisions to gradually make all schools impart education in English only, sparking a debate.
Q. What were the recommendations of the previous educational policies?
A. The first education policy, which was based on the recommendations of a commission headed by former UGC chairman DS Kothari, observed that regional languages are already being used as mediums of education at the primary stages and secondary, and steps must be taken to adopt them. the same modality also at the university stage. It contained no specific instructions about the mother tongue, but emphasized that “special emphasis should be placed on the study of English and other languages.”
The second education policy, introduced in 1986, was also silent on the role of the mother tongue as a medium of instruction at the foundation stage. However, the 1992 Action Programme, which was based on a 1986 policy review, said at the pre-school level that the medium of communication should be the mother tongue/regional language. The latest policy, introduced in 2020, marked a departure from the past as it made a clear case for the mother tongue. “Wherever possible, the medium of instruction up to at least grade 5, but preferably up to grade 8 and beyond, will be mother tongue/mother tongue/local language/regional language,” it says.
Q. What about previous NCFs?
A. In the NCFs, detailed guidelines depending on which curricula undergo revisions, the role of the mother tongue has been more clearly specified from the beginning. The first NCF, which came out in 1975, said that “as far as possible, primary education should be in the mother tongue”. Noting that the mother tongue is the “most natural medium of communication” for the child, he said that in the case of learners whose mother tongue is also the language of the region, the medium of instruction at the primary and secondary stages should of being the regional language. And in cases where they differ, the mother tongue should be the medium during the first two years of primary education, and then the regional language should take over.
The NCF 2000 was more forceful in this regard. “The medium of instruction should ideally be the mother tongue at all stages of school education,” he said. The NCF 2005 said that the language of interaction and communication in early childhood care and education (ECCE) would “usually be the child’s ‘first’ language, or mother tongue”. However, he added that, in view of the socio-political realities, English must soon be introduced as a second language, either in class I or in early childhood education.
Q. What does the Constitution say about this issue?
A. Article 350A of the Constitution establishes that it will be the effort of all states and local authorities to provide adequate facilities for the teaching of the mother tongue in the primary education stage “to children belonging to linguistic groups minorities”.